Category Archives: French Language Lessons

French Adjectives that go before nouns

 
French Adjectives That Go Before Nouns

In general in the French language adjectives go after nouns, for example:

  • La maison noire (= The black house)
  • Le restaurant anglais (= The English restaurant)

As you will see this is unlike English, where the adjective normally goes before the noun.

However there are some situations when French adjectives go before nouns. This page looks at those situations.

Which adjectives go before nouns in French?

The following are some of the adjectives you will commonly come across that normally go before the noun:

  • Beau(x)*/Belle(s) = Beautiful
  • Bon(s)/Bonne(s) = Good
  • Jeune(s) = Young
  • Long(ue)(s) = Long
  • Mauvais(e)(s) = Bad
  • Meilleur(e)(s) = Better (or best)
  • Nouveau(x)**/Nouvelle(s) = New
  • Petit(e)(s) = Small
  • Vieux***/Vieille(s) = Old

* ‘Bel’ is the singular masculine version if followed by a noun beginning with a vowel or h.

** ‘Nouvel’ is the singular masculine version if followed by a noun beginning with a vowel or h.

*** ‘Vieil’ is the singular masculine version if followed by a noun beginning with a vowel or h.

Other French Adjectives that go before nouns

Numbers go before the noun

‘Un/Une, deux, trois, etc.’ go before the noun.

Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal numbers (e.g. first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. i.e. premier(s)/première(s), deuxième(s), troisième(s), quatrième(s), cinquième(s), etc.) go before the noun.

The words ‘Next’ and ‘last’

‘Prochain(e)(s)’ (next) and ‘Dernier(s)/Dernière(s)’ (last) come before the noun unless not referring to a time. Examples of this are:

  • L’année dernière = Last year
  • Le dernière rue = The last road*

* Here in the second example ‘dernière’ is acting like an ordinal number, so it goes before the noun.

Adjectives which change meaning depending on whether placed before or after the noun

Some adjectives have a different meaning depending on whether placed before or after the noun. The most important ones are as follows:

 Meaning Before the nounMeaning After the noun
ancien(ne)(s)formerancient/antique
cher(s)/chère(s)dearexpensive
grand(e)(s)greatlarge
propre(s)own (e.g. my ‘own’ car)clean
seul(e)(s)onlylonely
Concluding words

I hope that the above has helped you to understand the main situations where French adjectives go before the noun.

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French Adjectives That Go Before Nouns
 

Y and En in French

This post talks about the true meaning of the words y and en in French. It sets out:

  • What they literally mean
  • When to use them
  • The situations in which you should not use y

Let’s start with the word ‘y’. It usually literally means any of the following:

  • To it
  • To them
  • At it
  • At them

It really is replacing the word à plus an inanimate object or inanimate objects (i.e. not living things).

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Je vais à Londres. = I am going to London/I go to London.

Could be replaced with:

  • J’y vais. = I’m going there/I go there. = Literally: I to it go.

Literally: I to it go.

  • Je suis à Londres. = I am in London.

Could be replaced with:

  • J’y suis. = I am there. = Literally: I at it am.

Verbs that use à as a preposition also can use y for example:

  • Je me prépare à l’entrevue. = I am preparing for the interview.

Could be replaced with:

  • Je m’y prépare. = I am preparing for it.

Although we say ‘for it’ in English, in French you literally say ‘to it’/‘at it’, so ‘y’ can be used.

Strictly speaking ‘y’ should not be used in relation to animate nouns (i.e. people, etc.), in French slang it is possible, for example:

  • Je crois à lui. = I believe him. = Literally: I believe to/at/in him.

In French slang could be replaced with:

  • J’y crois. = I believe him. = Literally: I believe to/at/in him.

What about ‘Il y a’?

The phrase ‘Il y a’ in English we usually translate as ‘There is’ or ‘There are’*.

Let’s take it apart to see what it literally means:

  • Il = He (or It)
  • Y = At it/At them
  • A = Has

Literally therefore ‘Il y a’ means ‘It has at it’ or ‘It has at them’.

You therefore need to be careful, because ‘y’ does not literally mean ‘there’.

*‘Il y a’ can also translate as ‘ago’ (e.g. Il y a deux jours = Two days ago), but this is not discussed further here.

The word ‘en’

Now let’s look at the word ‘en’. In most situations the word ‘en’ usually means ‘in’ or ‘to’, for example:

  • Je vais en France. = I am going to France/I go to France.
  • Je suis en France. = I am in France.

However, here we are looking at another meaning of ‘en’.

In this context we are looking at when the word ‘en’ usually literally means any of the following:

  • of it
  • of them
  • from it
  • from them

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Il parle de la maison. = He talks about the house/He is talking about the house.

Could be replaced with:

  • Il en parle. = He speaks about it. = Literally: He speaks of it.

The sentence:

  • Il descend du train. = He gets off the train. = Literally: He descends from the train.

Could be replaced with:

  • Il en descend. = He gets off it. Literally: He descends from it.

The word ‘en’ in this context is really replacing the word de plus a noun. Unlike ‘y’ it is acceptable and common to refer to both animate and inanimate nouns, for example:

The question…..

  • Combien de bouteilles avez-vous? = How many bottles do you have?

Could be answered as follows:

  • J’en ai trois. = I have three of them.

The question….

  • Avez-vous des frères? = Do you have any brothers?

Could be answered as follows:

  • J’en ai trois. = I have three of them.

I hope that this post has helped you to understand when you can use y and en in French. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

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Future and Conditional Tenses in French


How to say ‘will’ and ‘would’ in French

These notes will help you to form the future and conditional tenses in French. Essentially:

  • The conditional tense is when you use the word ‘would’ in English (e.g. I would go, he would see, etc.)
  • The future tense is when you use the word ‘will’ or ‘shall’ in English (e.g. I will go, you would see, etc.)

Stage One: Form the stem

The stem for both the future and the conditional tenses is the same. For all regular verbs you form the stem as follows:

Infinitive form – Future Stem/Conditional Stem

Parler (to speak/to talk) – Parler (for -er verbs use the infinitive)

Prendre (to take) – Prendr (for –re verbs take off the final e)

Dormir (to sleep) Dormir (for –ir verbs use the infinitive)

Future Tense

We use the future tense when we want to say that we will/shall do something in the future.

Stage two for future tense: Add the ending

The future tense is formed by taking the stem (e.g. parler, prendr, dormir, etc.) and adding the appropriate endings as follows:

Je -ai

Tu -as

Il/Elle -a

Nous -ons

Vous -ez

Ils/Elles -ont

Examples:

Je parlerai = I will talk

Tu dormiras = You will sleep

Il prendra = He will talk

Conditional Tense

[Note: We use the conditional tense when we want to say that we would do something].

Stage two for conditional tense: Add the ending

The conditional tense is formed by taking the stem (e.g. parler, prendr, dormir, etc.) and adding the appropriate endings as follows:

Je -ais

Tu -ais

Il/Elle -ait

Nous -ions

Vous -iez

Ils/Elles -aient

Examples:

Je parlerais = I would talk

Tu dormirais = You would sleep

Il prendrait = He would take

Irregular stems for the conditional & future tenses

As the conditional and future tense stems are the same, it is hopefully unsurprising that they also share the same irregular stems. Unfortunately there are a number of irregular stems for forming the future and conditional tenses. The most useful irregular stems are as follows:

Aller (to go) – Ir

Avoir (to have) – Aur

Devoir (to have to) – Devr

Envoyer (to send) – Enverr

Être (to be) – Ser

Faire (to do/make) – Fer

Falloir (to be necessary) – Faudr

Mourrir (to die) – Mourr

Pleuvoir (to rain) – Pleuvr

Pouvoir (to be able) – Pourr

Recevoir (to receive) – Recevr

Savoir (to know) – Saur

Tenir (to hold) – Tiendr

Venir (to come) – Viendr

Voir (to see) – Verr

Vouloir (to want) – Voudr

Although there are irregular stems, the endings in the conditional and future tenses are never irregular.

Examples:

Je serais = I would be

Je serai = I will be

Tu ferais = You would make

Tu feras = You will make

Il verrait = He would see

Il verra = He will see

I hope that the above post has helped you understand how to form the future and conditional tenses in French. If you have any questions or wish to book French lessons with me, feel free to get in contact. (To see more information about my language tuition services, please click here).

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